Monday, July 05, 2010

House of Councillors Election 2010 - The Tokyo DPJ Voter's Quintilemma

Yes, it is a lot like The Restaurant at The End of the Universe

"Brilliant!" he said. [cut] "Totally mad," he said, "utter nonsense. But we'll do it because it's brilliant nonsense."

In politics, what you see is not always what you get.

Pity the poor DPJ-supporting, DPJ-leaning or even DPJ-sympathetic voter of Tokyo. In the upcoming House of Councillors election she will have to choose 5 individuals from out of a list of 24 candidates.

The first two are easy: the DPJ incumbents Ogawa Toshio and Minister for Government Revitalization Renho.

After filling up her DPJ card (the DPJ having made what looks like an error in running only two candidates in a five-way race) the voters still has three more votes to apportion -- and no means of doing so without feeling ill.

For the sake of voting for known moderate conservatives, she could vote for one of the two LDP candidates: incumbent
Nakagawa Masaharu or newcomer Tokai Yukiko, a former GE employee and holder of a U.S. journalism degree whose heavily photoshopped campaign posters unfortunately recall the Katayama Satsuki disaster (Katayama, the former Mrs. Masuzoe Yo'ichi for those who are new to this game, is one of the candidates on the Liberal Democratic Party's proportional lists). The actual Ms. Tokai is somewhat (mercifully?) less doe-like in appearance.

However, voting for the candidates of the main opposition party would negate the DPJ voters' main hope, which is to deny the opposition the number of seats it would need to stop the DPJ from controlling the House of Councillors (which is 61 seats, assuming no fiddling with quorums during the Diet sessions).

So Nakagawa and Tokai are out.

Out also is, by dint of association, the attractive and savvy
Matsuda Kota, the man who brough Tully's Coffee to Japan. While he would be a shoo-in as an independent, he is unfortunately running on the Your Party (Minna no To) ticket, the DPJ's deadly rival among the urban permanent employee and managerial class vote. A vote for him is as much a vote against the DPJ as a vote for an LDP candidate.

The party that may benefit from confused DPJ voters searching for a way to spend three votes is ironically the Social Democratic Party, the party's whose march out of the coalition precipitated the final collapse of the Hatoyama government. In terms of policy, the choice is insane: the SDP vehemently opposes the current government's acquiescence to the Futenma-to-Henoko shift and the raising of the consumption tax. However, as compared to the other parties and the independents on the ballot, the SDP's got the right attitude: skeptical of the bureaucracy, for consumer rights and for more ecologically and socially gentle government policies.

It does not hurt that the SDP's candidate is a
handsome former international NGO worker.

Which leaves 18 candidates on which to spend the remaining 2 votes.

Back in the old days, when comedian/actors like Aoshima Yukio or prominent writers, architects, doctors or whatnot were on the ballot, one could toss a vote in their direction certain one was at least give the country a reason to smile, or, as it turned out in Aoshima's case, doing the country a great favor.

However, the remaining candidates on the Tokyo ballot, both party-affiliated and non-party share candidates, seem to share a common flaw: they apparently are all bats--t crazy.

In a metropolis of 13 million residents, two sane individuals could not find the time, either of their own volition or through the encouragement of friends, to file papers to run for a six-year position with a fabulous salary, extraordinary housing and transportation perquisites, basically three free meals a day, personal and family security, social status and very few responsibilities.

Not even as a lark.

To be fair,
Koike Akira is not bats--t crazy. But as the candidate of the Japan Communist Party, he is anathema to all but his party's faithful. Like Matsuda, he would likely win a seat as an independent, especially if he made a special effort to label himself an ex-Communist-running-as-an-independent. Instead, he should go down ignominious defeat with a mere 500,000 votes.

Except...when you have 30%-35% of the voters searching for a sane, non-LDP, non-Your Party alternative, being a JCP candidate may not as much of a handicap to election as it should be.

Now the voter has one vote left. What to do? Right-wing fringe--of which there are so many different flavors one could start up an ice cream store? Unidentified possibly sane independent one has never heard of?

Irony of ironies, the safest place for a DPJ voter to park her last vote?
Takeya Toshiko of the New Komeito (and yes, that fade in is creepy).

Even though Takeya's party has been lambasting the DPJ and its policies; is supported mostly by followers of the Soka Gakkai; and was for the last decade the LDP's coalition partner in government, a vote for her will at least fulfill the Hippocratic Oath: cause no harm. The New Komeito has enough votes in Tokyo to get Takeya elected no matter what. One extra vote for her or a million will not make the least bit of difference for her election chances. It will deny a vote from someone else who might otherwise have a chance.

And that is the sad commentary of the state of politics in Tokyo -- that a supporter of the current government has five votes, more than the citizens of any other prefecture (Hurrah!) and not five persons to spend them on.

Later - Twisting Flowers has a less idiosyncratic and actually correct review of the Tokyo race and the races in the triple-seat districts.


Jan Moren said...

A few reactions: I saw Renho speaking in Tokyo this Friday (and she was about to speak here in Osaka yesterday; she does get around). They handed out round cardboard fans with here image, and frankly, it was not much better than the two photoshop disasters you point out above. To begin, somebody should have pointed out that everybody over the age of thirteen (and most people since birth) has a fold on the lower eyelid. And some kind of surface structure on the skin. And that teeth generally aren't chalk white.

Second, you can be a DPJ supporter without necessarily agree with every single policy issue. In such a case it would make sense to also give a vote to potential coalition partners that promise to nudge the coalition toward the mix or policies that most satisfy yourself. If Kan's cave-in on the Futenma issue (which now seem to be rewarded by the US with demands for additional money and still more concessions in favour of US and against his own voters) isn't very palatable, then promoting the social democrats a bit may be a very good idea.

wataru said...

I think your assumption that each voter gets to vote for five candidates is wrong. We vote for only one, but five are elected.

Jan Moren said...

"I think your assumption that each voter gets to vote for five candidates is wrong. We vote for only one, but five are elected."

Which was something that surprised me here too. But there are legitimate voting systems that allow you to vote for more than one candidate (a very good system lets you vote for as many or few as you wish), and there are places that have adopted such systems. It's a shame they aren't more widely used, in fact.

wataru said...

Janne, I agree, and I also found much of interest in the original article. I hope Michael will recast it to reflect the reality of the voting system here.